My eyes fought to bring my surroundings into focus. One eye, the one that didn’t just have a minuscule hole lasered into it, eventually succeeded and I was surprised to find myself lying on a cold floor, with two faces peering down at me.
I was even more stunned to find my ophthalmologist – an amiable yet reserved glaucoma specialist – holding my hand and speaking gentle words. “How are you feeling? Would you like some juice? Something to eat?”
Chagrin, my old familiar foe, appeared alongside the awareness that I had passed out.
Squinting at a clock across the room I realized it must have been for more than a few minutes, and the two women had managed to get me to a corner of the room.
“Uh, sorry. Water would be great,” I mumbled. “Just please don’t tell my husband,” The women glanced at each other before giving me quizzical looks. I attempted a grin as I explained. “I’ve teased him relentlessly because he once passed out when I arrived at the hospital in labor with our sixth child. He was pushed in a wheelchair while I waddled along beside him. I suspect he won’t let me live this down.”
“You need to lie here for a bit,” the eye doctor said, checking my pulse. “But I’m going to go get Scott. Let the teasing begin.” She smiled and left the room.
Just a few weeks prior, I had decided that using a magnifying glass to read the little print on my mail was a bit much, and scheduled the eye appointment that I had put off for the last two years.
The technician had performed the usual eye tests while we chatted about her recent move to Colorado, our college attending children, the weather, the horrific Parkland school shooting and how we both were up by 4 AM.
“Alrighty, I’m going to prep you so we can dilate your eyes and then the doctor will be in to see you,” she said. But after a few rounds with my chin nesting in the bottom bar and forehead pressed against the upper portion of the eye equipment I dubbed The Evil Eye Puffer, she pushed it to the side and stood up.
“I’m going to have the doctor take a look. But I don’t think we will dilate your eyes today.”
Instead, after her own thorough exam, the eye doctor threw around terms like narrow angles and glaucoma, and explained dilating the pupils could potentially cause the pressure to spike so instead they were sending me to a specialist.
The no-nonsense specialist quickly confirmed the glaucoma diagnosis, telling me I had exceptionally narrow angles. She had no openings that day to perform a procedure, but wanted me back within the next week. “In the meantime, if you get a severe headache, nausea, blurry vision, and/or eye pain, and we aren’t open, go to the ER. Loss of vision can occur within hours,” she warned.
Perhaps, like me, you have heard the word glaucoma, and know it is some kind of eye condition, but otherwise are pretty ignorant. I’ll give you the crash course that I took, but feel free to skip ahead if learning medical jargon isn’t your thing.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve and lead to a progressive and irreversible vision loss. The eye continuously produces a fluid that must drain from the eye to maintain healthy eye pressure. Glaucoma causes the pressure within the eye (the intraocular pressure) to be at unhealthy levels for the affected person. There are two main types. The most common is called Primary open angle glaucoma. In POAG, the eye’s drainage canals become blocked, and the fluid accumulation causes pressure to build within the eye. This pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve, which transmits information from the eye to the brain.
Vision loss is usually slow and gradual and often there are no early warning signs.
The second type is angle closure glaucoma (or acute angle glaucoma/narrow angle glaucoma) which is much rarer in the U.S.. It occurs when the angle between the cornea and the iris is narrow.
Angle Closure Glaucoma is much less common than POAG in the United States. In this type of glaucoma, the fluid cannot drain properly because the entrance to the drainage canal is either too narrow or is closed completely. In this case, eye pressure can rise very quickly and can be triggered by pupil dilation.
Glaucoma is known as a “silent thief of sight” because it typically causes little to no symptoms until noticeable vision loss. Once the optic nerve has been damaged, the damage is irreversible, with varying degrees of permanent vision loss.
So. Yeah. That’s it in a nutshell. Too much pressure could steal my eyesight. The solution? Holes. Pressure relieving holes. Microscopic, laser produced holes. In my irises. The thought of it was a little freaky but my specialist told me she had lost count of the number of times she had performed the procedure, which gave me peace. I was assuming after 8 + years of schooling, she could count pretty high. So there I had sat, less than a week later.
“It’ll be quick, and feel like a rubber band snap to the eye,” she explained.
She forgot to add “and then you might pass out.”
Now, as I slowly sat up, my endearing husband arrived, and did not tease me too much. Or at all, in fact. (I wanna be like him when I grow up.)
I did not look forward to returning the following week to have the second eye done. But I knew it was necessary. Without a way to release the pressure, I could lose my eyesight.
I bet you can guess where I’m going with this.
We all have pressure in our lives.
Weighty pressures. Financial struggles. Death of a loved one. Chronic illness. Divorce. Loss of a job. A major move. Foreclosure. A sick child, a stressful job, a betrayal – the list goes on.
Sometimes the pressure is simply living life surrounded by many choices, many good things, and the illusion of not enough time for it all.
The more pressures builds, the likelier it is that we begin to lose our sight. Sight of our goals, our priorities, our purpose, our joy. Sight of what is most important.
How do we create those pressure relieving holes so that we can keep – or regain – our vision without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like comfort eating, excessive drinking, mindless scrolling on social media, or zoning out with the television? Let me suggest four ways.
Hole Number One: Clarify Values
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, one of the best ways to relieve stress or pressure in our lives, is solidifying our values, narrowing them down to the top five-ish and fiercely guarding them.
Then when it is time to make a difficult choice, we already know what is most important to us. For example, this week, I wanted to attend an online writer’s group. Creativity – usually in the form of writing or making cards – is high on my values list. But it falls beneath family, so it was a no-brainer that when my daughter went into labor with our fifth grandbaby, I missed meeting with fellow writers in order to support my daughter. Saying no to the lesser (although still important) thing is trumped by saying yes to what is most important. Doing this relieves the pressure on ourselves to think we have to do it all today.
Hole Number 2: Get some Support
I am enough is a popular saying, but when I hear it or read it I immediately want to jump up and down, wave my hand in the air, and shout not me. Not me.
I am NOT enough.
I’m not enough in and of myself. I need the Lord. And I need my people. They make me a better person. I strive to do the same for others.
When we share our burdens, the load is easier, the seemingly impossible is made possible. The support, wisdom, and encouragement of others who have been through what we are going through lighten the load.
Burden sharing is dynamic. Sometimes we need to lean on the strength of others, and sometimes we are the Oak trees offering shade and a place to rest for others along the way.
And often, we are in both places at the same time. I currently work with women who are dealing with betrayal trauma – the trauma and shock of discovering a spouse’s addiction to pornography. Because I am on the other side of that, I can be a pillar to those who currently feel crushed beneath the weight and pressure of the pain and confusion. On the other hand, I’m also in the early stages of dealing with chronic Lyme disease, and have had to lean on the support of others during the overwhelm and moments of despair. When I am at my lowest, I reach out to others who have been there.
Whatever it is we are carrying, we find relief from speaking it out loud to someone safe, someone who understands. Support groups, friends, coaches, therapists, and mentors can lighten the load. But we must take the step of reaching out rather than isolating.
I will say it again. We are not enough. We are created for relationship and for bearing one another’s burdens.
Hole Number 3: Practice Self-aware and Self-care
Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence. And contrary to some thinking, it is not selfishness or self-centeredness.
We can begin the process by asking ourselves some questions about what we need in order to be a good steward of our body, soul, and spirit. Self-care means taking some time and becoming aware of the things we need to equip ourselves for what God has called us to do and be. For some, self-care might mean getting enough sleep, eating healthy, or taking a long walk. For others it might mean going back to school, finding a mentor, scheduling regular friend get-togethers, or setting aside time to read or play golf. Self-care is as unique as each individual. And it is something we must advocate for and set boundaries around. Which brings me to
Hole Number 4: Set Boundaries
Boundaries are not intended to be barriers, but rather a means of protecting what is important to us.
There are those to whom this comes naturally. For the rest of us, it is a challenge to first recognize what is most important, what boundaries we need to set around those things, how to verbalize our boundaries, and finally how to ensure we keep them.
It can be a challenge, yes, but not an impossibility. Like anything else, setting boundaries gets easier with practice.
We all have pressures in life. If we ignore them, or chose detrimental coping methods, we will eventually lose sight of what is important to us. We can, however, deal with the pressures in life in a healthy way by clarifying our values, finding support, utilizing self-aware and self-care tools, and setting boundaries. This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point.
Personally I believe none of these practices can compare to sitting in stillness with the One whose body was pierced – had literal holes in it – so that we could live in confident rest, no matter the circumstances of life. Jesus came, was crucified, and rose again, so that you and I might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) He still tells us today ““Come to me, you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (From Matthew 11:28-30)
I pray for you, my readers, that the stresses and pressures of life don’t cause you to lose hope or lose sight of who you are and what you are created for.
***I believe each of these “pressure relieving holes” is biblical and I will address them in depth in upcoming posts, beginning with clarifying values. (And no, there won’t be three months in between posts because I’ve recognized that writing is one of my self-care needs, and I have established some boundaries around that 🙂 I will provide tools and resources as well. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, or followed my author page, please sign up, follow, share – it would delight my heart. ***
Grateful for this abundant life,